Nigeria: Wild Polio Virus May Resurface in Nigeria If ... - UNICEF

Nigeria achieved polio-free status on 18th June, 2020 and was officially declared free of the disease on 25th August 2020.

Nigeria's information minister also speaks on the 'urgent' step the country must take to avoid a recurrence of the virus.

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has warned that the Wild Polio Virus (WPV), which Nigeria has successfully eradicated, may resurface if preventive measures are not taken.

UNICEF Communication for Development Specialist, Elizabeth Onitolo, made this known during the opening of a three-day media dialogue in Yola, Adamawa State, on Tuesday.

The dialogue tagged "Routine immunisation; Post-polio certification and COVID-19 vaccination" is organised by UNICEF in conjunction with the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how Nigeria and the rest of Africa were formally certified free of the Wild Polio Virus on August 25, 2020, by the World Health Organisation (WHO) after no case of the virus was detected on the continent for three years.

Nigeria is the last African country to eliminate the virus which can be prevented with adequate vaccination. Eight years ago, Nigeria accounted for half of the world's polio cases.

The poliovirus, which causes paralysis by attacking the nervous system, is spread from person to person mostly through contaminated water.

Mrs Onitolo, however, said the recorded success is still fragile due to low immunisation coverage which has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world.

She said the emergence of the COVID-19 virus has negatively affected Routine Immunisation (RI) and further put many children at risk of preventable diseases.

Vaccine hesitancy

Ms Onitolo noted that many parents and guardians are still sceptical of presenting their wards for vaccination.

She said the only way to keep safe is to vaccinate every child.

"Many parents are not compliant, children are not vaccinated and environmental sanitation and personal hygiene in communities are still low providing a possible ground for polio outbreak," she said.

"It is over two years without polio in Nigeria and we want to ensure good surveillance," she said.

According to Ms Onitolo, vaccine hesitancy is also frustrating efforts to fight the COVID-19 virus, which has infected over 160,000 people in the country.

She said many Nigerians are scared of getting vaccinated due to misinformation on their parts.

She noted that said the dialogue will improve the knowledge of key media practitioners on low RI coverage and how to reach more people on the importance of getting vaccinated.

In his remark, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the country is at a critical point in ensuring access to and uptake of routine immunisation across the country.

Mr Mohammed said there is need to address the immunisation situation with attention to COVID-19 and its impact on RI.

"Even though the country has been certified Wild Polio Free, there is an urgent need to address the immunization situation in Nigeria with attention to COVID-19 and its impact on RI and the roll-out of the vaccination for COVID-19 itself," he said.

He said the federal government would continue to leverage on the media to promote messages on both the prevention of COVID-19 and increased vaccination.

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